Aside from Brexit failing to materialise last Friday, I have had some failures this past week. I failed to post a blog on either Friday or Saturday (my usual schedule), I failed to achieve creative goals I set for the weekend… and yet, those failures contributed to a pretty good result.
About the goal: I’ve been banging on about Brexit (in blogposts, poems, comedy, podcasts…) for almost three years. And I decided to release all the backlogged content I have about it during the Brexit weekend! On brand, on time, everything done! Go me! I was excited: the idea was pleasing to my perfectionist brain. It had a feeling of achievement paired with the idea of a clean slate: it’s practically perfectionist catnip.
Spoiler alert: I failed. But what does failure mean? It means: I published an episode of Jobstealers podcast that has been languishing on my hard disk for years – an interview of another European human right after Brexit, when we were both despairing and hopeful, unlike the beat-up tiredness of the present. I also figured out how to do audio editing on my shitty cheap laptop (the answer is paid online software, but hey, it worked!), figured out YouTube’s editing software, rewatched my solo show on Brexit (“F*cking European”) and edited my YouTube channel. How is that for “failure”, considering that a lot of these things needed to get done for a while?
I have a tendency to take on too much, but this weekend it has served me. Sure, I fell short of my goal. But I am still working on publishing my videos, the podcast has premiered, another podcast is on the way and I am re-energised in my creative practice, even if a lot of this is essentially admin, and admin long overdue at that.
I’m cosying up to failure. I’m learning to reframe. Frankly, perfection only exists in not-doing (as I keep learning again and again); “perfect is the enemy of the good”. Perfect, pfft! Ain’t nobody got time for that!
This is a post about when things go ever so slightly wrong and you can’t deal with them, because you PLANNED this and the plan was PERFECT and now everything is a DISASTER and…. what was this blog called again?
Yes. That. So.
I am ever so sliiiightly frustrated this week.
It’s half-term week. A week that, as special school teachers, we count the days to. Every so often, in that ten minutes before children arrive, we do the math of weeks and days and half-laughing, half-seriously say: can’t wait. Because the job is exhausting as well as f*cking magic, and beautiful and great. We count the days. We get tired. We get a week.
Being me, which means – set to productivity (a.k.a. a human brainwashed by capitalism, also ambitious and hungry for success); amazingly busy; with a lot of errands; – I made plans for half-term. Frankly, I made more plans than I knew what to do with. I made too many plans. I overplanned. But there were errands that needed doing, that I’ve been really dragging my feet about. I needed to buy glasses (done, FINALLY), do a blood test (nope, it’s been only 1.5 month now) and work on my citizenship stuff. Oh, and also, there was a gig.
As it happened, the week came to be dominated by The Gig. The gig in question was Sing It Wrong, a fantastic song parody night that I really wanted to do. I SANG TWO SONGS OKAY AND I AM SO PROUD, I DID A THING! First of all I sang about being in my thirties and looking for meaning of life, and I thought that it wouldn’t be funny, but it really was…:
The second song was The Song – the one I was most scared of, most excited about. The one that I stayed up to edit the soundtrack for, the one that I spent over two hours writing the lyrics. I rapped to Missy Elliott’s Work It. Specifically, I rapped about Brexit. To Missy Elliott’s Work It. You read that right.
The gig was absolutely brilliant. It also threw my entire week plan off the cliff.
The first two days of half-term I got up at 8, did an hour of work on citizenship from 9 (okay, on Tuesday I did 4 hours, I got a bit single-minded) and tried to rest or get errands done for the rest of the time. But Tuesday night I stayed up to mess around with Audacity (yeah, my Missy Elliott track was creatively edited). So on Wednesday there was no early morning or citizenship work. I did go swimming though, so one win there. But then!
I COULDN’T GET OFF THE INTERNET.
In addition to my typical post-gig hangover (no, there was no drinking, just a slight emotional exhaustion), I wound up watching my videos all the time and sending them to people. Artistic self-promotion is really tiring (and it was also not in my plans at all), but I suddenly had this very strong and manic need for Everyone To Love This Thing I’ve Done, Right Now. I was bursting with it, and despite being embarrassed, wanted to share it ith everyone!
(…I get that way sometimes when something creative just WORKS. The high tends to be directly proportional to how excited and nervous I was about doing something (in this case: VERY). I just kept watching this person on the screen being seemingly super confident with her clown persona (video 1) or with her sexiness and dancing (video 2), moving the mic stand about purposefully to fit her needs (something that I actually don’t remember doing, that’s how automatic it was). I couldn’t conceive how easy it all looked on the screen – even though I was so nervous during the second song that I didn’t HEAR people cheering. If you watch the video, mid-song I am asking the audience to “give me some love”, because I physically do not perceive it at that moment. But at the same time, I am clearly inhabiting myself in this larger-than-life way and it’s facinating.)
But here we are on Saturday and… post-gig exhaustion persisted on Thursday: a social day when I had meetings with friends. It’s lucky it included someone cooking me breakfast….! Whenever I was not with humans, I was looking at a screen. I relaxed my normal social media habits, because of course you get excited about a gig video and it’s been awhile since I’ve had something fun to share! But it quickly morphed into reading about Brexit, about women being discriminated against in design and OMG ALL OF THE THINGS ON ALL MEDIA. MY BRAIN. OW.
Result: aside from my swimming class I did fuck-all on Friday. Well, except cooking and inhaling a large amount of food. Today (Saturday) I delayed leaving the house for two hours (and also slept eleven hours, what the hell). And now I’m writing the blog, not cleaning or doing laundry or whatever, because of all the things to do, this one was the most accessible. It is clear to me that I am tired. It is also clear that tomorrow’s date with Manbear (previously described as Gentleman Caller) will consist of me putting laundry loads in and dusting and things, and that’s kind of not how I pictured it.
Tally Of Frustration
This is the moment when I should probably stop myself and look at this week’s achievements. Look at me, being all mad because I didn’t clean and cook lunches. True: these things do matter in terms of setting myself up for a good working week (I think I have only one evening off!). But I’ve made considerable headway into my residence research, played a gig, chose a glasses frame (after months of dithering, because I didn’t like any of them. I just had to pick something in the end) and wound up getting some likes on the old Facebook page. Frankly, if I were in my depressed phase, making it to a swim class would definitely be enough of an achievement for one day! It’s just because I’m not, my expectations for myself are high. Too high maybe. Possibly the expectations don’t match reality very well.
In the end, half-term meant to be restful and all, I found myself missing my regulated work existence – 7 am wake-up, the same breakfast, the same hours. Waking up whenever and choosing a long-to-make breakfast is nice occasionally, but perhaps part of my anxiety is here simply because I’ve had too many choices this week. Perhaps at some point I’ll make like Obama or Jobs and have a set amount of the same clothing (I’m not far off with my work wardrobe). So it could be that the tally of frustration is here, because I had way too much choice and I need less of it. Go figure.
I’m still tired. And hungry. And a worthy human being even if today I struggled to get sh*t done. I have to keep writing to remind myself of that.
I’m not sure when it started or what are its actual ingredients. But the symptoms have persisted through the years. That is, I may be bad at resting. Or maybe: my priorities can be really out of whack. Or maybe: if I can’t summarise it, I can’t tell it fully. But I can tell you the results.
Last two months of 2018 were the hardest ever, workwise (aside from first two months of 2018, but that’s a separate story). I had two shows, two pub quizes per week, an emotionally and physically demanding full-time job with autistic children and my own artistic practice. Rather tellingly, all the work I was doing required being very Out There for other people: whether I’m hosting a pub quiz or working in the school, there is always an audience that I perform for. And I love that; it plays to my strengths. And yet.
Above me in the shows: Behind The Scenes at Studio Mandelbrot (a charming improv sci-fi set in alternative 70s) and Snow Q (a blend of fairy tale, poetry and performance art, in which I was the solo actor). I loved doing both of those!
There are people who routinely work 70-hour weeks. I have the greatest respect for those people and I presume that it takes a unique combination of endurance, determination and balance in creating efficient work routines as well as building in self-care. This is something I understand in abstract, but when it comes to work, I just expect myself to take everything on and excel. To make this more complex, I really do enjoy a demanding, fast-paced environment: I cook lunches and organise myself ruthlessly and – thrive. But in the last months of 2018 things got out of control: my motivation was flickering, I was angry, sad and got sick all the time. I kept trying to rest; I reserved Wednesday evenings for soothing baths; I refused social invitations, because between quizes and rehearsals I was out way too much – but I was also missing my friends and had no time to see them. All of these attempts were too little, too late. I was hoping that I’d rest during Christmas, but despite a wonderful holiday I came back to work with a sense of doom and unhappiness.
And so I had to deal with it.
First week back to school I asked for risk assessment for my injury – something I postponed, because the injury didn’t seem very serious and me being put on risk assessment would put pressure on the rest of my team. I followed this by three days of sickness absence and a decision to go from full-time to four days a week. I quit one of my two pub quizes. I quit the improv team I was heavily involved in. I started quitting things left and right, and saying “no” to more things cropping up. I quit media (as you know if you read my previous posts), I quit reading about politics especially, I quit trying to make all of my art projects at the same time. I quit, I quit, I quit. And then I quit some more.
There is more to it, of course. I have injuries that needs physiotherapy and general dealing with. I’m in my thirties now, which seems like a good time to get some spine muscles and improve my posture: I will likely keep that spine for next 30-50 years, so it’d be nice to maintain a decent user experience. My mental health could also use a tune-up – another thing that I’ve been postponing, but inevitably will need more if I don’t look at it sooner rather than later. All these things require time and effort and I had to make space for them.
And there is British citizenship – something I keep being scared about and need to do research on. Miraculously, my tax return actually affords me the money to pursue it. I hope that’s a sign of some sort.
So what now? Last week was my first week on a 4 day contract. On Friday I slept in, did some admin and went on a date to a museum and to see a show. Saturday was taxes, Sunday – brunch with friends and quiz. I try not to worry about citizenship, if only because it won’t help. I think twice before accepting any invitations, but also have more energy to be social as well as some actual time to enjoy London. Chances are I’ll be earning less: on average this move cost me some serious money that I hope my freelance work will absorb a little. But overall, I am happy: my personal life is thriving, I have plans to finish a play this year and maybe learn how to apply to Arts Council. I found some small satisfaction in things being as they are. I keep reminding myself to enjoy it.
There is a chance you knew this about me. I do solo shows: comedy, mostly, often with swear words in the titles, but also theatre and poetry (got something cooking right now!). As a solo artist, the only way to work with others is when I get cast in somebody else’s work, or when I hire someone. So most of the time, I work alone.
I. Can. Not. Get. Stuff. Done. For The Life Of Me. And if you tell me that I do, I’ll rephrase: I get Some Stuff Done, Sometimes. The ideas/creation ratio is deeply, deeply unsatisfactory.
Me in 2017, swearing in my first show’s title.
Facebook and their compatriots put some serious work into reprogramming my brain. I will humbly admit that I may be on the susceptible end of the spectrum: I like to read, I’m procrastination-prone… I was made for loving you, baby…! (Internet). My intense reading habit – something my family spoke with half-admiration, half-exasperation when I was a child – has shifted online almost completely. I’ve been paying library fines for about 6 months, because I do, in fact, want to read those books about history of hip-hop and British class system (two different books, though that would be a fun read….). Bottom line, I NEED TO STOP BEING ON-LINE, PRONTO.
Am I deleting my Facebook account? No. Not that simple.
As an artist, I need an Online Presence. As a human, I enjoy easy access to my friends and finding out about events I might attend. Overall, I can’t be fully offline – I have work that comes via email, I have things that need to be promoted. Rather than disappearing, I want to show up consciously, when I have someting to say.
So what I’m choosing to do is, from 4 January for about a month, get on Facebook once a week – to publish a blogpost. Twitter and Instagram will also benefit from my blogging, but that will be the extent of it; there will be no Netflix, YouTube or NowTV. I even plan to download albums off Spotify, so that I can remain offline from it, too.
I’m leaving my burgeoning podcasting habit alone. I tend to clean when I listen to podcasts, so that makes them good in my book.
Will it be worth it? Will it, as I hope, shift my focus a bit?
I have a lot of work on my plate this month – completing my tax return for one. It will definitely be interesting to see whether I feel any different or function better. For now, I invite you to hang out with me as I’m trying this thing out. The next post might be all about my favourite YouTube shows, just because I’ll miss them…!
It’s awesome. The turnout was good (I feel incredibly privileged there, recently saw an Edinburgh preview that was EMPTY….) and the feedback better. There are messages on my phone from people who really wanted to come and couldn’t – whether politeness or genuine desire, I’ll find out next time I do the show!
There WILL be a next time. Meanwhile, I used the fact that I was already doing something scary and attached another scary thing to it: a Patreon account.
You might not know about Patreon. It is basically an online patronage system when you regularly support an artist – not like a one-off Kickstarter, more like… a coffee per month.
The thing with Patreon is that it is extremely deliberate. It requires a vision of yourself as an artist, a business, a service-provider – but also a person in a relationship with other peple. It humanises the business – you are in touch with nice people who want to personally support you – but it also makes your art something worthy of payment and attention. If you have hang-ups anywhere in this process, whether subconsciously fearing attention or struggling with the business model, the Patreon might not work.
For me the problem is being consistent (I switch media all the time, which doesn’t offer an overarching artistic narrative!) as well as business-related. But at the same time, it is so fun to figure out all the ways to be genuinely nice to people who want to support you, your art and message! And so I’m really, really okay with failing to begin with. Patreon gives me a medium, through which I can sort out my relationship with both art and audience. And eventually, it will give me a way of creating independent art, without fighting for commissions. It’s worth failing, worth putting the work in. I’m
looking forward to that… .
6 months left until I hit the big 30! Feeling lost, confused, helpless, sad, confused… Granted, some of it might be due to Brexit. And no sugar diet (hello, withdrawal).
The big leading Thing of Things that seems to be happening in my life: in my race to Become A Cool Person (which is not always successful, let’s face it) I seem to have lost the person that I actually am. Cue rude awakening. See confusion. Example: I want to be the person who gets up early (I do function better in the mornings), but right this minute I am not that person. Responding in my favorite way (with guilt and bitter self-recrimination) really does not yield the desired effects. Changing the response incoming. Frankly, I’m not sure who I am, who I think I should be, who I’m becoming, who I want to become. There are things going right – I have to work on the appreciation of The Good Things – but mostly I’m looking around, wide-eyed, going: is this me?
Also, this just in: I might be an introvert. Please stop laughing. Is there a late onset? I love people; I tend to be at my best in (good) company, enjoy being centre of attention, etc etc. But people exhaust me, too. Maybe just now I have a lower tolerance – crowds definitely a no-no. Also, I’ve not been leaving the house due to freelance/mugging and subsequent fear of dark & outdoors/post-Brexit low mood.
On the bright side, there is writing. Writing is the best. If I rouse myself from reading-induced stupor (favorite escapism, now that eating a pack of cookies is not an option) and start writing, I know I’m gonna be okay. Writing, verbalizing – they keep me sane. That’s why I talk so much. Well, I talk for many reasons. I hide in plain sight sometimes – if I speak of it all, no one suspects there’s anything deeper. But writing… is the easiest, most accessible way of coping. So if I have enough energy to write a blog post, an article, recently (!) a fanfic, I know I’ll be okay eventually.
Ongoing creative projects: #GirlfagThePlay (egads, it’s slow-going! I’ll get there), Safe, the one-woman show (might rename it Shame, or something related). Newest idea: a stand-up show called A Fucking European. Oh, and the Polish-language show, No Such Place As London. Now just need enough focus to do these. 🙂
Don’t know if I’m not doing a good enough job, representing myself, representing people – or should I let go of Things That Happened and get on with Characters I Have?
I keep thinking that I’d not evolved enough to write this play. That the character – played, after all, by me – has a more interesting potential life that my own has ever been. So, er, I’m displeased with my own life, which hinders me writing? Certain things are ridiculous (ungrateful – unappreciative) when you write them down. Probably why I’m here.
Maybe I should give up on acting. I’m so busy being not-good-enough-me that it’s hard to represent anyone else. Even myself from the past/alternative future. There’s a fallacy in this not-good-enough-ism – I know it, even if I can’t cross over it just now.
My gender swirls around. I don’t want to be a woman. I don’t want to be a man. As a woman I’m wounded; as a man I’m erased. I’m more than that, but also other. Also the freak, yearning to be normal. Also burlesque, also a sexual self that is buried somewhere so deep down I can’t find it. I don’t want to find it, lately. I’m running in opposite direction. Almost thirty and still scared of myself.
Don’t know what to do. Read a lot to get away from myself. Exist in this slightly spaced out disconnected realm. Not a body, a floating brain. I look down at myself, high on loneliness.
I want this play to be warm. Connected. Imperfect. Real. The shame I feel is tainting all, cutting me off.
I could (have) write a play per day, if I let myself feel. I could, technically, finish this play in a week. If I let myself go that deep. If I dared to go that deep. It’s a prayer, at this point. I want to connect, want to love, be vulnerable, be not-alone, be understood. Be out of that shameful place. My self, listening, because I don’t believe in a higher power other than myself, trapped in mundanity, trapped in shame – o self, listening, watching, please breathe out. Please let me write my play. Even if I don’t want to be what I am, please let me move past the revulsion. Please let me write my play. And for the third time, please let me touch my own strength, determination, love – because what good am I, if I can’t do this? Please let me write my play.
Courage. Take heart. This is literally all I can say to myself, as I:
Take a new, uncertain path in life while
My relationship is falling around my ears.
2. is, at least in part, caused by 1. – I’m fairly certain. We’re both sensitive artists (read: drama queens) and somebody here needs to put a boundary up and it’s got to be me. In an ideal world, I would quit my dayjob and enjoy nothing but mental support from my partner. In this world, it’s really up and down. I do understand – our lives are tied together, and if I don’t do well, financially, WE are in trouble – but truth is, one can process a tough situation in any number of ways, and I’m becoming disillusioned with what’s happening in here. I’m actually getting chances and commissions, there is plenty of pitches to make, applications and things; all I need is to be in sound mental state. And I’m struggling with that. Because four hour arguments, and some words can’t be fixed with I’m sorry, can’t be unspoken.
In other news, I went dancing on the street yesterday. My partner was actually really proud. I was, too. I thought about doing it forever, and now that I have – in the barest, easiest way, without much prep – I’d like to do it again. The bravery of it steals my breath. That’s what I need. I need to do brave things and stretch my body into a bit of pain that is real. This is real and necessary if I’m to actually make things possible.
I don’t need to be bravest of all people. All I need to do if be bravest of all Ritas that ever were. The only one to compete with is me. And that is some stiff competition, to be sure! But I can do it. I have so much love. I’ll spend it all in one place, now: on me. Growing myself up, my Rita-garden, the soil of soul.
Google searches: Alan Rickman, “Jinx” (due to cryptic conversation with a housemate re: films to watch on house movie night)
Today was a weird day. Yesterday it’s been a week since I quit my job. I’m doing great and I’ve been saying as much; today I will acknowledge the rest of reality.
My back hurts. It was one of the motors of change. I’m waiting for an NHS physio appointment (standard waiting period: 12 weeks); my disc has been moving, apparently. Also, I went to a fitness class, which I intend to continue – possibly muscle pain has compounded in, today.
I didn’t leave the house. My mistake. I was trying to make myself work, when I really needed a rest – but I don’t work well from the house, unless I have a time limit. Yesterday I’ve done quite a lot of work, because I was going out to a stand-up night with friends. Today things got a bit more blurry.
I’m learning. I’m learning my own tells. How can I have the life I want, if I don’t pay attention to what I want, and how I behave? So I’m paying attention to what makes me tick. Sometimes I back away from change. After doing a show I have a hiding period. I’ve done two stand-up monologues this week, plus a pitch and lots of other things. I’m really doing pretty damn well.
Since I quit:
I exercised at least an hour per day in various forms, often more; I always did between 15 minutes and 2 hours of masseur-appointed back exercises;
2 stand-up slots, people!
I woke up happy every morning and made my bed (embarrassing a confession, but with depressive tendencies that can be a feat)
kept up swimming, once a week;
I organised a team for my dream street-act to dance on the streets (currently we heard from a drummer who wants to join, that’d be so cool).
I got myself invited to audition for Vagina Monologues in Brighton, which. omg.
This all happened in a week.
It’s just, today I backslid a little, and I’m in a bit of pain. That’s to be expected. If you want muscles, pain will happen; if you want to keep your head high and back straight, you’re changing habits of a life time.
I’ll keep at it. I found my path, and I’m learning how to walk again.